Chile Catholic Church rocked by e-mail scandal

Santiago, Chile — The Catholic Church in Chile has been rocked by another scandal surrounding its most infamous pedophile.

Leaked e-mails between the archbishop of Santiago and his predecessor show how they conspired to block a well-known abuse survivor from being named to Pope Francis’ sex abuse commission, fearing it would damage the Church.

Local newspaper El Mostrador this week published the e-mail exchanges between the current archbishop, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, and his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz. The Santiago archdiocese confirmed their authenticity.

In the e-mails, dated 2013 and 2014, the two men discussed the key Vatican cardinals they needed to consult to try to prevent Juan Carlos Cruz from being invited to speak at a meeting of Anglophone bishops on sex abuse.

“I hope we can prevent lies from finding space between those who belong to the same Church,” Ezzati wrote to Errazuri.

Cruz was sexually abused by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a charismatic preacher whom the Vatican sanctioned to a lifetime of penance and prayer for having abused young boys.

Karadima had a huge following and led a parish in Santiago for nearly six decades before allegations against him came to light in April 2010. Two months later Errazuriz forwarded allegations to the Vatican.

Victims say allegations against Karadima were first reported to Errazuriz in 2003, but that he ignored them. Errazuriz, who is one of Francis’ nine key cardinal advisers, has acknowledged in court testimony that he failed to act on several abuse allegations because he believed them to be untrue.

Cruz has been outspoken in accusing Errazuriz of covering up for Karadima’s crimes.

Cruz’s activism prompted Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of abuse and one of the founding members of Francis’ sex abuse advisory panel, to propose him for membership in the group.

On Friday, she said she was “disgusted” at the cardinals’ attitude and said it would be discussed by the commission.

“Personally I am disgusted at the attitude displayed by these leaders in the church to the Pontifical Commission and to a survivor of abuse,” Collins said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

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Ezzati’s office has said the e-mails were a private exchange of opinion, though it acknowledged the decision on the nomination was the Vatican’s to make.

The e-mails have been harshly criticized in Chile, with some politicians calling on Ezzati to cancel his annual “Te Deum” address, when Church leaders traditionally tell politicians what is ailing society. Others have urged him to resign.

The e-mail scandal comes months after Francis himself was criticized by Collins and other commission members for nominating a Karadima protégé to be bishop of the southern Chilean city of Osorno, even though victims said the prelate knew of Karadima’s crimes and did nothing.